We see fragments of the assembled bourgeois interior. Sofa, piano, floor lamp. Rolling table with glasses and drinks. In the middle is a wooden table with a telephone on it – receiver and all. Four artists (Aurelie Alessandroni, Aurelie Lanois, John Rowley, Neil Callaghan) wander aimlessly in space, with no relation to each other. The phone rings. The doorbell rings. A shot rings out. Etchells operates the machine: performers respond to vocal cues with actions that build in speed, emotion, and intensity. If there was a shocked silence after the first rifle shot, they were soon crushing each other to the sound of the clanking of machine guns. At first, it’s sad piano music, then it turns into excited swaying, and each laugh ends in hysterical neighing – until Etchells turns on the “cry” button.
This is what it feels like: as if Etchells is sitting in front of a mixer and composing with sliders, manipulating the parameters: now we add a barking dog, now we separate the sound from the picture, now we open all the tracks at the same time: chaos . The performers dance to its tune, conditioned by their environment. And by the laws of (realistic) theater – which Etchell explicitly takes out of context. To infinity, to absurdity. There is something to laugh about.
This is what Etchells has been doing for decades: playing with the symbols of theatre, installing a different vision of the reality of theater – out of a need to say something about the real world. The latter is essential, because if the community’s urgency is not clear, the game becomes a source of strength, an empty shell.
Theatrical form always tells something about the way the world is viewed in a particular era. Deconstructing this form means breaking this perception, to make room for alternatives. Etchell’s fluid and unreliable world has been telling us for forty years that the (political!) narrative of solid, unshakable order was an illusion. It shook the worldbut since then this exercise has been performed several times, and in the meantime a new exercise is needed – you can choose any.
Final conclusion How the world works: The fifth part of the theater course Theater history(s). – in which Milo Rau challenged artists to test their theater in the face of today’s world – has become a relic of history. In that world completely on fire, deconstructing bourgeois drama (in a sequel with parts by Ibsen or Chekhov) and its associated worldview seems an irrelevant battle.
Tim Etchells founded Forced Entertainment in 1984, and the British group has been around almost as long as I’ve been alive. Their influence on Flemish companies such as Ontroerend Goed is undeniable, and their importance in pushing the boundaries of what theater can be is also undisputed. but How the world works He points to a quandary that also threatens some Flemish companies of a certain age: when form becomes dogma, meaning dies. The result is how painful it is to see: old stage.
“Total coffee specialist. Hardcore reader. Incurable music scholar. Web guru. Freelance troublemaker. Problem solver. Travel trailblazer.”